Students Create Videos Documenting Life During COVID-19The videos were a project for Paul Estenson’s January Term class, Economics in the Media
Posted on April 5th, 2021 by

As the Gustavus community reflects on the one-year anniversary of classes moving online due to COVID-19, some students are sharing their experiences through mini documentaries.

The documentaries were a project for Professor Paul Estenson’s January Term class, Economics in the Media. The class focused on watching various documentaries and discussing their impact. When thinking up a project for his students, Estenson decided to try something new.

“One of the assignments was for each of them to make a video talking about their COVID-19 experience,” Estenson said. ‘Usually, [students] are used to being assigned a paper, not to make a film.” 

First-year Jonas Doerr was one of the students in Estenson’s class, and decided to interview members of his church about their experiences during the pandemic.

“I decided to interview the pastor and some of the staff members at my church about how COVID affected the church in my hometown (Milwaukee, Wis.),” Doerr said. “It told a story of how people started to deal with [COVID] and how things are starting to become more available again. At the beginning, it was a radically different experience because no one could come to church anymore,” Doerr said.

Doerr’s film is one of 14 total made for the class.

“They all tell a story, with people talking very frankly about how they experienced COVID,” Estenson said. “I was pretty impressed overall with the quality of the work. I wasn’t trying to teach them how to make a documentary film, but everyone knows how to tell a story.”

Doerr noted that he was pleased with how his video turned out, and enjoyed sharing it with others.

“After I finished making it, I was proud of what I made and I’m not usually super proud of an academic paper. [A video] is something you show other people, but you don’t normally say to someone, ‘hey, want to read this paper I wrote?’,” Doerr said.

Estenson plans to offer the January course again next year, and will likely keep the video assignment.

“I may be able to piggy-back on the COVID pandemic and have people talk about how they emerged from it, but I may need to find a new topic. Just the idea that students have an additional avenue to do a presentation to communicate their story, it was fun and interesting,” Estenson said.

To see the student work, visit Estenson’s COVID-19 video archive.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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